N$60 million to train medical specialists abroad

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Albertina Nakale

WINDHOEK – Government spends approximately N$60 million annually to support young Namibians undergoing medical specialisation outside the country. This is hugely attributed to the fact that the current status of the school of medicine at the newly re-named Hage Geingob Campus of the University of Namibia (previously known as the Health Sciences Campus) is not well resourced medically.

The campus, which was named after President Hage Geingob on Wednesday, has about five schools – namely the school of medicine with 600 students, the school of pharmacy with 200 students, the public health school with 100 students, the school of dentistry with 22 students and the future school of allied health sciences with 30 students.

Outgoing Unam Vice-Chancellor Lazarus Hangula told Geingob during the naming ceremony that although the school of medicine has managed to acquire some of the most advanced medical equipment, some gaps still need to be addressed.
Hangula said that in developed countries medical schools play a critical role as final referral centres because medical schools do have the best medical and health specialists and thus are well resourced.

Hangula argued that if the Namibian medical school is to play that important role as a national referral centre, there is a need for the government to make additional resources available so that the necessary equipment and related facilities are put in place.

He says this is not only necessary for the provision of specialised medical and health services to the public but also for training young medical doctors and those who wish to be further trained at master’s degree level to become specialists.

Without giving estimates of the much-needed funds, Hangula said additional resources would also be needed for the maintenance of the equipment.

He said the new building complex is also expected to provide medical and health services to the public.
He noted that Unam has only accomplished phases 1 and 2 and that two or three additional phases are still to be done in order to complete the infrastructural master plan for the campus.

“It would be very sad to see these state-of-the-art facilities become dilapidated within a few years due to poor maintenance because of lack of funding. This is my honest plea to you, Mr President, that special considerations are made when it comes to allocating funding to Unam for additional resources, to be provided either through our line ministry [higher education] or the Ministry of Health and Social Services, specifically for the school of medicine,” he pleaded.

He wished for medical doctors and other health professionals to be well trained and exposed to modern medicine considering that the world today faces serious health challenges affecting humanity, never seen before.
Thus, he says, Namibia must be ready at all times should emergencies or any health threats come its way.

Equally, he revealed the school of dentistry is still at an infant stage, saying the first intake is in the class, the space is available and that some of Unam’s partner institutions are ready to send some of their already paid staff to come and lecture. However, he said, they need additional dental chairs not only to meet all the training requirements of the Medical and Dental Council but also to become a centre of excellence in dental treatment, care and research in the SADC region.

The faculty dean of the Hage Geingob campus, Peter Nyarongo, said sending students abroad at a cost of N$60 million annually is discounting human lives lost during their four to five years’ absence or the harm the health sector suffers as a result of loss of their service.

“[This is] besides the salary we continue to pay during their training in host countries where they offer free quality healthcare services while undergoing training. Cumulatively, Namibia would have offered supplementary funding amounting to N$259 million by the time these doctors return to the country, if they do. While carrying your name Mr President, beginning 2019, as we introduce more postgraduate programmes on this Hage Geingob campus the net savings will grow annually by N$20 million to peak at N$100 million in 2021 annually,” Nyarongo said.

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